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Nine steps to successfully reseeding weather-damaged forage in late summer

Agriculture.com Staff 07/14/2008 @ 9:51am

New forage seedings are susceptible to a wide array of problems and stresses -- flood, hail, drought, weed competition, insects, etc. Late summer can be a good time to 'patch in' bare or thin spots in forage stands or reseed entire fields. However there are some risks. The following steps will improve the chances for successful forage stand establishment in late summer.

  1. Step 1: Plan ahead.
    Planning is best done a year or more ahead of your new forage seeding. Planning should include these steps:
    • Test soils and apply needed, corrective lime and/or fertilizer in the cropping seasons before the forage seeding. Small amounts of corrective fertilizer can be incorporated during forage seedbed preparation.
    • Begin to control problem perennial weeds a year or more ahead of seeding.
    • Be careful with herbicide selection on crops grown in the field before the forage seeding because some may have residual soil activity and will harm new forage seedlings if proper waiting periods are not observed. Read the labels for details.
  2. Step 2: This is late-summer seeding, not fall seeding!
    Seed as early as possible. Perennial forage seedlings require six to eight weeks of growth after emergence to have adequate vigor to survive the winter. Seed by August 10 in the northern third of Iowa, by August 20 in central parts of the state, and by September 1 in southern Iowa.

    Forage legumes such as red clover and alfalfa can be seeded up to the dates listed above if moisture is present. Slow establishing species like birdsfoot trefoil or reed canarygrass should be planted in early August. Most forage grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, smooth bromegrass, orchardgrass, tall fescue, and timothy can be seeded five days than the dates listed above.

    Keep in mind that the above dates assume sufficient moisture to establish the crop. Planting later than the dates mentioned above is sometimes successful depending on fall and winter weather patterns, but there is increased risk of failure and reduced yield in later years if late emerging seedlings are damaged by frost.

  3. Step 3: Prepare a firm seedbed if using tillage.
    Loose seedbeds dry out very quickly. Deep tillage should be completed several weeks ahead of seeding so rains can settle the soil before final seedbed preparation. A cultipacker or roller is an excellent last-pass tillage tool. The soil should be firm enough for a footprint to sink no deeper than 3/8 to one-half inch.
  4. Step 4: Utilize interseeding and no-till forage seeding.
    Late-summer pasture interseeding and no-till forage seeding is an excellent way to conserve moisture, provided weeds are controlled prior to seeding. Remove all straw after small grain harvest. Any remaining stubble should either be left standing, or clipped and removed. Do not leave clipped stubble in fields as it forms a dense mat that prevents good emergence.

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